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Lean on Me and Keep It Seriously Simple

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to tour a heavy metal oriented vehicle test facility, a parts assembly operation including wire extrusion, and an assembly area for electron and ion beam microscopes.  That certainly is a breadth of types of manufacturing.  Yet, they all are benefitting from applying lean management techniques.  They get together with employees on a daily basis in a huddle to review the work to be done and the metrics on their performance.  They set up visual standards that are easy to understand–even for someone touring the operation for the first time.  They modify the operations to remove unnecessary steps and to eliminate work in process.  It’s amazing to see the transformations that can be made in a manufacturing facility.  Every six months it seems as though things are moved around and improved as people continuously look for improvements.  It’s a bit harder to apply the same things in the office, but it can be done.  As you approach the year end and make plans for the new year, think about cleaning out those old physical files.  Just as it is important for a factory worker to find a part within reach and pointed in the right direction to make assembly easier, it’s important for an office worker to be able to find something quickly without getting the wrong version.  Think about cleaning out your old e-mails or re-organizing them.  Take a look at your hard disk files and make some more sense out of them.  Do you hold the phone in your left hand, but have the phone on the right side of your computer?  Think about changing that setup to make it easier to work on the computer while you have that phone in your hand. Or, maybe you should invest in a headset with or without wires.  My dad was a tool and die maker and my brother was a jig and fixture journeyman.  Those jobs are all about making something so that someone can do their job better and faster.  Spend a little bit of time this month thinking about what you do regularly and how you can improve it by just 10%.  If you spend 8 hours a day working, that’s 480 minutes.  A 10% improvement is approaching an hour a day.  That can be significant when you put those extra minutes toward important activities and thoughts rather than losing them to time wasters.  Use the KISS principle — make sure you Keep It Seriously Simple.